Reviewer: QSS

By this author


Books June 30, 2018

Swan Song

Does Truman Capote belong to the history of literature or the history of celebrity? Both, of course. The man who imposed himself upon the world as an orchid of graciousness and grotesquerie is a legend in himself, and as the author of Breakfast at …

Books June 16, 2018

Last Stories

William Trevor, the Protestant Irishman who died in 2016, was one of the great masters of English prose but he used it, stonily and unflashily, to convey feeling through every possible byway and desolation and transport of what might almost have been …

Books April 07, 2018

The Friendly Ones

Philip Hensher is one of the more compelling writers alive, whether he’s writing about gay bears (the human middle-aged kind), as in King of the Badgers – an offputting book – or showing that he is the heir to Thomas Mann, as he does in …

Books March 17, 2018

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Anyone who’s read much about Daesh knows who created the monster and who is the Frankenstein in that particular horror show. Imagine thinking to avenge September 11, 2001 on Iraq, and in the process – despite ridding the world of Saddam Hussein – …

Books December 09, 2017

The World Goes On

László Krasznahorkai is one of those big-time contemporary talents for whom mighty claims are made. Early on, both Sontag and Sebald compared him to Gogol, that most romantic and cartoonish of 19th-century realists in whose work haunted and unearthly …

Books October 14, 2017

The Sparsholt Affair

When Alan Hollinghurst burst upon the literary world 30-odd years ago with The Swimming-Pool Library he looked like a major talent in search of a minor subject matter. Or was it wrong to say that here was a high comedian of fiction in the manner …

Books September 09, 2017

Autumn

Karl Ove Knausgaard is the writer since Roberto Bolaño and David Foster Wallace, both alas dead mid-career, for whom the highest claims are made internationally. His multi-volume My Struggle saga asks to be taken as seriously as a work of fiction …

Books August 19, 2017

Whipbird

Every so often someone writes fiction that ravishes the popular imagination. Robert Drewe did it at the outset with The Bodysurfers in 1983 and Christos Tsiolkas has been doing it in his latest books. Now Drewe has done it again in Whipbird, …

Books July 08, 2017

The Secrets She Keeps

It’s amazing the airs trash fiction gives itself these days. The latest effort by Michael Robotham exploits the neat unstartling idea of a woman who works in a supermarket who steals a newborn baby of a posh woman she befriends. It has plenty of tension …

Books July 01, 2017

Hinterland

Hinterland is one of those big Australian bush novels in which a group of people – some of them sick, some of them rich and vicious, some of them vassals of the rich or put-upon kids – all collide in a big quasi-political story of grand themes …

Books May 06, 2017

I’d Die for You

Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books/you’re very well read, it’s well known” about someone who knew something was happening but didn’t know what it was. Was that like Fitzgerald? Pretty early on he started …

Books April 22, 2017

House of Names

It’s an intrepid novelist who goes into the house of Atreus as an adjunct of the house of fiction but that’s what Colm Tóibín has done. The man who took on the voice of Henry James in The Master has written a contemporary novel about the …

Books April 01, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon

It’s funny the way even true crime has its prestige market.  Killers of the Flower Moon is a most elaborate and densely historical account of a pile of horrible murders, executed by David Grann with what is sometimes a conscious grandeur …

Books February 25, 2017

The Name on the Door Is Not Mine

Karl Stead is in his 80s now and for as long as anyone can remember he has been New Zealand’s leading literary critic. It was in the 1960s that he wrote The New Poetic, a book that shed light on T. S. Eliot by suggesting that The Waste …

Books February 04, 2017

Winter Traffic

Sometimes a work of trash fiction comes along with such blatant pretensions that readers are lining up to be impressed by the eloquence with which they are entertained. And so it is with Winter Traffic, this entangled depiction of guys and …

Books December 10, 2016

Joy Ride

John Lahr is a theatre critic who has commanded audiences and made careers. Theatre is in his blood because he’s the son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz and the original Estragon on the New York stage in Waiting for …

Books November 26, 2016

Moonglow

Michael Chabon is one of those fictional masters of the middle way who can tell a story with plenty of honeyed charm and narrative invention while going some distance to persuading the reader that he is a craftsman of language, loving, artful and myriad-minded. Moonglow

Books October 29, 2016

Days without End

There’s something weird beyond belief about Sebastian Barry. He conjures up a world of very contemporary queerness (cross-dressing, gay maritals) and then casts it, with some degree of laconic historical verisimilitude, in the 19th-century Wild West. …

Books October 15, 2016

Hag-Seed

Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed is the latest in a series of Shakespeare novels that Hogarth has commissioned in order to get contemporary novelists’ takes on the different stories of the Bard’s plays. We have had a retelling of The Winter’s …

Books September 10, 2016

The Schooldays of Jesus

J. M. Coetzee’s The Schooldays of Jesus is essentially the continuation of his previous novel The Childhood of Jesus and it has the same kind of breathtaking sobriety in the face of the strangest and most haunted subject matter …